Saturday we will witness the Greatest Match in Basketball History

Op-Ed written as an Assignment for my University of Westminster Sports Journalism Module. Written on March 16th, 2016.

When we cover sports, we are always fascinated by the ‘glorification’ of the past.

Maradona is better than Messi, Jordan is better than Bryant or Schumacher is better than Hamilton.

The 2015-16 edition of the NBA, the most spectacular Sport League in the World, is teaching us that New could be better.

Saturday night will mark Round Two of the ‘Warriors – Spurs Showdown’, a matchup that is rewriting several statistical and history books.

Basketball fans are starting to compare this duel to others that have made sports history.

Like England – Germany in Football or New Zealand – Australia in Rugby or Federer – Nadal in Tennis.

This new edition of the ‘NBA Saturday Primetime’ between Golden State and San Antonio will mark the Greatest Regular Season Match in NBA History.

Warriors and Spurs this season have won, combined, 88% of the games they have played.

Something that has no equal in the League’s 69 years of existence.

San Antonio is the ‘Tradition’.

A ‘Tradition’ that, as of today, is unbeaten in its own court.

No one, before them, had won their first 34 Home games in a NBA Season.

They have dominated these last two decades, pursuing perfection both on and off-the-court.

Since their Franchise Player, Tim Duncan, joined the team in 1997, they have the best winning percentage in all the four American major sports (Basketball, American Football, Hockey and Baseball).

Duncan, in these years, has led the winningest Trio in NBA History.

An International one: he is from the Virgin Islands, and his sidekicks have been the Argentinian Manu Ginobili and the French Tony Parker.

Tim, Manu and Tony have won together almost 700 NBA Games.

Better than any Trio in League History.

Where there is tradition, often there is continuity: since December 1996 the Spurs are led by Gregg Popovich, one of the two coaches in NBA History to have won more than 1,000 games with the same Franchise.

The Spurs Legacy is something that goes beyond simple matches: today’s NBA is filled by Coaches or Managers that somewhere have written, in their CVs, ‘Employer: San Antonio Spurs’.

That is because the Texan Franchise is able to plan and build with an incredible cleverness.

An example of that is Spurs’ next Franchise Player.

Despite being only in his 5th season in the Association, Kawhi Leonard is already one of the three men to have won both the Defensive Player of the Year Award and NBA Finals MVP.

Leonard is in an elite company: the other two in that category are Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan, the Greatest Player of All Time.

Tim, Manu, Tony, Gregg and Kawhi, together with other great Spurs players in multiple-time All Star LaMarcus Aldridge, veterans David West and Boris Diaw or key players as Danny Green and Patty Mills,  will approach Saturday’s game with one desire: Revenge.

In their only matchup so far in the season (Spurs and Warriors will meet twice in the Regular Season final week in mid-April), Golden State have forced their opponent to their worst loss of the season with a final score of 120-88 that leaves no objections.

This is one of the reasons why, after Leicester City in Football, the Golden State Warriors are now the best story in Sports World.

Because they are simply changing the whole concept of Basketball as we know it.

Today the Dubs can exhibit the best start in NBA history after the first 67 games, with 61 wins.

It may seem redundant, but the superlative has been used quite often in this 2015-16 season for the Californian team.

Best Season Start in NBA History, Best Record at the All Star Break, Best Record for a debutant coach in his first two seasons.

And, last but not least, the Best Player in the NBA today in Stephen Curry.

Many people thought that, after an MVP Season last year, he had reached his peak.

But as we are now seeing, the sky is the Limit for Dell Curry’s son.

As of today, Warriors’ iconic guard has converted 330 3-Pointers. Before Stephen Curry, no player in NBA History had scored more than 270 long-distance shots in a Full Season.

But Steph’s historical run is not only made by his shooting ability.

As of today, Curry is having the best ‘after-MVP’ Season in NBA History. His Player Efficiency Rating, a Statistic that measures the successful impact of a player in a team, has no comparison in Basketball’s History.

No Basketball Team is great for having just one legendary player.

For that reason, Warriors’ true success is explained by the so-called Splash Brothers. Klay Thompson, son of former NBA Champion Mychal, is the perfect ‘Robin’ to Bat-Curry, or Dr Watson to Stephen Holmes.

His constant shooting and scoring effort played a huge role in making Golden State’s backcourt into one of the Greatest in NBA History.

As we have seen before, NBA’s Legacy is made by ‘Trios’, or Big Three.

The third, in Warriors’ case, is Draymond Green.

First time All Star this year, Golden State’s big man is the best forward in all NBA for assists, and his efficiency and versatility makes him a hard matchup for the other 29 League teams.

Golden State is on the run for beating the NBA All-Time Winning Record for a Season, established by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls with 72 wins (and 10 losses) exactly 20 years ago. San Antonio is on the pace too for a 70-wins season.

Task will be harder than the usual for the Dubs, due to the injury to their reigning Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala, the perfect veteran player.

If you’re wondering if there has ever been an NBA Season with two teams winning at least 70 games, the answer is simple: Never.

Round one of this incredible matchup, played in January, marked historical television viewing numbers in the US.

Round two, at this stage of the season, with these records on the line and the current teams form, could turn out into the Greatest Basketball Game Ever Played in History.

Have you met Bruno?

June 26, 2014. Barclays Center, Brooklyn.

The upcoming NBA Draft is full of hype, rumoured to be the best one in more than 10 years.

The main prospects have been in the mind of several NBA GMs for months, believed to be able to change their teams’ history.

Pick number 20 belongs to the Toronto Raptors and, as Commissioner Adam Silver approached the stage to announce their choice, a lot of names were being debated between fans and expert, given also the fact that nobody had already broken the news on Twitter.

“With the 20th pick, in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select Bruno Caboclo, from Brazil.”

It was a shock: almost nobody knew about the existence of this young 6-foot-9 small forward from Osasco, Brazil.

From the little information available online, he looked like a promising player, with some physical resemblance to league MVP Kevin Durant, but he was nothing more than a rough diamond.

At the beginning of Raptors’ Team Practice before the NBA Global Game in London, all the players were surrounded by a big group of reporters. All but one, standing alone, almost waiting to be interviewed by a reporter: Bruno Caboclo.

“I think I’m having a good development and adaptation to the NBA”, he says with a shy voice, looking surprised by the question and by the fact of being actually interviewed by someone, “I keep in growing into the team and the league. I think that this is the best process, a very good one. I’m just doing very well!”

The adaptation to the NBA is a slow and tough process for every young player, but it could be harder for an international player. Especially if, like Caboclo, you come from an average basketball league.

The current season is Bruno’s second with the Raptors, although so far Caboclo has played in just 11 NBA games for Toronto, mostly in the so-called garbage time; the young Brazilian is spending most of his time with his franchise own D-League team, the Raptors 905.

Caboclo on his D-League debut with Raptors 905 earlier this season

His numbers are not the greatest, but that’s understandable when you get the chance of meeting with him face to face: you would be in the presence of an athletic ‘freak of nature’, with an incredible wingspan (one of the biggest among all NBA players) and a great athletic potential, but with the face of a young teenager, if not of a child.

He will be 21 years old in September, but you struggle even to give him an age of 14 or 15 years.

Despite all of this, Toronto highly believes in the young Bruno: GM Masai Ujiri has already exercised the team option on his contract for the 2016-17 season, and the team wanted Caboclo to make the trip to London, with the main team, to play in the NBA Global Games against the Orlando Magic.

“I love the chance to play abroad, outside North America”, he says, “I think it’s a great chance to improve my NBA experience and also my relationship with teammates!”

You could feel by the introduction that Bruno’s like a lone wolf in Raptors’ Locker Room.

That couldn’t be more wrong: the presence, in the team, of another Brazilian player in Lucas Nogueira and the overall young age average make the Raptors a perfect environment, something that is easily felt by watching Toronto’s practices, for a shy and timid player and personality like Caboclo’s one.

“It’s also good for the NBA”, Bruno continues, “showing itself in countries like UK or also my hometown Brazil, which usually follows more soccer rather than basketball.”

“Being together for a week, with our families and as a ‘family’ ourselves”, says Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who usually speaks highly of Caboclo, “should help us a lot, especially for guys whom spends less time with the team.”

NBA is not Bruno’s only thought: “I would love to make the team for Rio 2016 Olympics”, he says, “It would be like a dream! But there’s really a lot of work to do and there’s a long road in front of me: I’m still very young and there are other players more ready to perform in the Olympic Games rather than me.”

During that ‘famous’ NBA Draft, ESPN’s analyst Fran Fraschilla made a famous statement about Caboclo, defining him “two years away from being two years away”.

Having passed these first two years, it is worth to ask ourselves about if really the young Bruno is now two years away.

Will the young Brazilian Kevin Durant and his 12-year-old lookalike face disprove the doubters, live up to the hype and make it in the biggest league on the planet?

Ujiri, Casey and the entire Raptors organisation have absolutely no doubt about that.


Che bella l’NBA

Che bella l’NBA.

Che bella l’NBA, dove grandi campioni si affrontano lealmente e nel massimo rispetto.

Che bella l’NBA, dove il razzismo è talmente combattuto al punto in cui uno dei proprietari più ricchi viene bandito a vita per aver definito un ex giocatore “negro di merda” in una telefonata con l’amante.

Che bella l’NBA, dove non importa il fatto che di quella telefonata siamo venuti a sapere solo grazie a uno scoop, e poco importa che sia un fatto privato.

Che bella l’NBA, dove i più accesi contestatori di quel proprietario sono stati i suoi stessi giocatori, lo staff tecnico, i tifosi.

Che bella l’NBA, dove un giocatore fa coming out da free agent (senza squadra) e viene firmato senza problemi qualche settimana dopo.

Che bella l’NBA, dove giocano 100 giocatori stranieri e nessuno reclama “più spazio per gli americani, #TroppiStranieri!”

Che bella l’NBA, dove la globalizzazione si estende anche agli staff tecnici, che vanno lentamente popolandosi di allenatori stranieri.

Che bella l’NBA, dove ci sono donne che arbitrano e allenano: e tutto ciò viene visto come assolutamente normale. Donne che sono trattate in maniera eguale, elogiate quando la loro conoscenza rappresenta un valore aggiunto e criticate quando lo meritano.

Che bella l’NBA, dove un giocatore che insulta un arbitro gay in campo non solo viene punito dalla lega, ma anche dalla sua stessa squadra (pur “forzata”).

Che bella l’NBA, così lodata da tutti in giro per il mondo, anche da quelli che sono i primi ad avere atteggiamenti beceri, ignoranti, razzisti, sessisti, omofobi, stupidi.

Che bella l’NBA, dove nessuno si sogna di dire all’arbitro gay insultato dal giocatore “lo fai per farlo punire” “sono cose di campo” “è un vergognoso accerchiamento mediatico contro la squadra”.

Che bella l’NBA, dove non esistono pene per la discriminazione territoriale proprio perché non è concepita.

Che bella l’NBA, dove le battaglie culturali e sociali sono abbracciate indistintamente e non in base al proprio opportunismo, che sia relativo al tifo o alla linea editoriale.

Che bella l’NBA, che è talmente grande da permettere a certuni di lavarsi la coscienza.

Che bella l’NBA, perché è facile fare elogiare gli altri e le loro regole ma, allo stesso tempo, dire “sono cose di campo” “opportunista” quando tocca a noi.

Flavio Tranquillo e la Passione per il Giornalismo Sportivo oggi

(Foto d’archivio da Notizie d’aSPORTo, Stagione 2012-13, Bocconi TV)

Ho già scritto in passato dell’importanza che il Basket ricopre nella mia vita, e di quanto sia il mio sogno quello di poterlo raccontare professionalmente.

Sin da quando ero piccolo ho sempre associato, come molti miei coetanei, il racconto del Basket alla figura di Flavio Tranquillo.

Soprannominato The Voice, la sua storia è nota a tutti gli appassionati italiani di quel magnifico Gioco che è la Pallacanestro.

Ho conosciuto di persona Flavio Tranquillo la prima volta nel 2012, intervistandolo per quello che considero il mio “primo figlio”: Notizie d’aSPORTo sull’allora B Students TV  (oggi Bocconi TV). Ho avuto la fortuna di intervistarlo qualche altra volta, anche per la mia Tesi di Laurea, rimanendo ogni volta stupito e ammirato per l’umiltà e la disponibilità totale, nonostante una agenda constantemente piena di impegni.

Per questo motivo ho deciso di dedicare a lui la seconda intervista, dopo Paolo Condò, sul tema della Passione per il Giornalismo Sportivo oggi.


In parole tue, chi è Flavio Tranquillo?

Un ragazzo fortunato

Quanto è importante la passione per il basket nel tuo lavoro?

Molto, ma non è un merito. Solo un accidente della storia.

Dove si trova più gratificazione tra l’essere inviato in giro per il mondo o l’intervistare “individualmente” un personaggio sportivo? Perché?

La gratificazione sta nel conoscere cose e persone nuove. Personalmente sono un tifoso relativo dell’intervista.

Queste emozioni superano o precedono il fare la telecronaca dal vivo di una partita?

La partita sta sopra tutto. La partita, non la telecronaca della stessa.

Quale partita sceglieresti come la più emozionante della tua carriera? Perché?

La prossima, perché la bellezza è essere sorpresi ogni volta.

Secondo te c’é un rapporto tra la passione per uno sport e la nostalgia per “ere” passate dello stesso?

Credo ci sia una nostalgia rispetto a come si era quando si era più vergini.

Spesso però questa è una trappola da evitare, posto che un po’ di nostalgia ci sta sempre bene quando usata cum grano salis.

Quale è il tuo rapporto con la nostalgia?

Vedi sopra, mi piace molto ma provo a non crogiolarmi.

Si parla molto, specialmente negli ultimi tempi, del basket come business, specie quando si fa riferimento al “Modello NBA”.

In che misura può esserci ancora spazio per del “romanticismo”?

Non sono termini che si escludono, anzi.

Il business dipende dal giocare bene a basket, e per farlo il romanticismo, con o senza virgolette, è un ingrediente necessario, anche se non sufficiente.

Pensi che i temi “economici” allontanino le persone dallo stadio o comunque dal seguire la propria squadra?

Assolutamente no.

Quello che allontana è l’assenza di vero business, non certo il tema economico di per sé.

È possibile nel 2015 per te coniugare efficacemente passione e business in uno sport ai livelli più alti?

Assolutamente sì.

L’evoluzione dei media ha cambiato il tuo modo di scrivere ed intervistare? In che misura?

Chiaramente sì, ma non saprei entrare nel dettaglio.

È successo e basta.

Quale è l’importanza di un’interazione continua, via social network, con i propri lettori e con il proprio pubblico?

È importante, ma guai a confonderla con l’informazione o la linea editoriale.

Blog, gruppi o forum e pagine Social sono sempre più uno strumento di aggregazione e confronto.

Come ti rapporti con queste piattaforme? Possono essere uno stimolo?

Lo sono.

Sono una fonte di notizie e stimolo.

Una fonte, non “la” fonte.

E, come tutte le fonti, fondamentale è la verifica.

Puoi raccontare qualche aneddoto (vissuto in prima persona) in grado di simboleggiare il cambiamento del basket “mediatico”?

A metà partita controllo sempre Twitter, spesso correggo errori grazie ai follower.

Cosa consiglieresti ad un giovane che sogna il mondo del giornalismo sportivo?

Di avere un piano B.

Di non idealizzare.

E di stabilire cosa intende questo giovane per “giornalismo sportivo”.

(Ringrazio Flavio Tranquillo per la disponibilità).

15 ‘2015 Sport Highlights’ I won’t forget

Roberta Vinci’s interview after Serena’s Us Open Upset

A 300/1 favorite to win her US Open Semifinal, Roberta Vinci shocked the Tennis and Sport World by stopping Serena Willams’ run to a Calendar Year Grand Slam.

After an amazing comeback win, Vinci won fans heart with a joyful and open-heart on-the-court interview.

Kobe Bryant announces his retirement from Professional Basketball

With an emotional letter on the Players’ Tribune, NBA legend Kobe Bryant announced his upcoming retirement from Pro Basketball.

The rest of the 2015-16 Lakers Season is going to be a long Farewell Tour to the Black Mamba, a unique catalyst of feelings, and an occasion to reflect on a long and incredible career.

Robert Lewandowski scores 5 goals in 9 minutes

On September 22 Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski entered the game against Wolfsburg right after halftime, but not even the most optimistic fan would have ever dreamed what happened in the second half first 15 minutes.

The Polish number 9 made history, scoring 5 goals in a 8 minutes and 59 second arch. And they were one better than the other.

Usain Bolt stays on top of Athletic’s World

Jamaican World Record Holder Usain Bolt entered the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing not in the best physical shape, with the concrete chance of losing his long primacy to controversial former Olympic Champion Justin Gatlin.

But in the Stadium where his legacy started, he reminded us why he’s the number one.

Gregorio Paltrinieri breaks the oldest Swimming World Record

Young Italian freestyle Swimmer Gregorio Paltrineri has had a breakout year in 2015.

He finally consecrated himself with winning the Gold medal in 1500m Freestyle at Kazan’s World Championship, but he was able to do more of that, by breaking the oldest Swimming World Record on books, the 1500 Freestyle Short Course one, made in 2001 by Swimming Legend Grant Hackett.

Danilo Gallinari breaks Germany’s heart at 2015 EuroBasket

After a long series of injuries, in 2015 Danilo Gallinari reminded us why he’s one of the best European players of his generation.

He scored an impressive 47-point-game Career High early in the year with his Denver Nuggets, but his most impressive performances were during the 2015 EuroBasket, where he led his Italian team through a though Group Stage with lots of impressive plays and numbers.

His clutch Game-Tying shot against the host German team has been an inexplicable moment to witness live.

MSN is alive, leading Barcelona to Football Dominance

My generation has grown up with MSN messenger, the first viral system to chat and communicate with friends worldwide.

Windows Live Messenger was discontinued in 2013, but the acronym regained new life with the explosion of the outstanding FC Barcelona trio of striker: Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar led the Catalan team to their second Treble (first team in Football History to accomplish that) in 6 years in 2015, scoring (as of today) 135 goals in the calendar year for Barça.

Golden State Warriors made Sport History

2015 was, without a doubt, the ‘Dubs Year’.

The Golden State Warriors won their first NBA Championship in 40 years, after an historical season (their 83 wins, combining Regular Season and Playoffs, is the 3rd highest in NBA History). But they were often labeled as ‘lucky’.

After that claims, they started the 2015-16 NBA Season with 24 consecutive wins, crashing by far the previous League Record (no team had done better than a 15-0 start in NBA history) but also making an all-time record for North American Professional Sports.

Klay Thompson’s Insane 37-point Quarter

Basketball fans could have feel that 2015 was going to be the ‘Warriors Year’ already on January 23rd.

Golden State entered the second half against the Sacramento Kings with the game in balance, when Klay Thompson made a 2-pointer for the 61-58 Warriors lead, with 9’45” remaining to play.

That basket was the beginning of an NBA Record: 37 points in a Quarter, the result of a perfect shooting display (13/13 from the field, 9/9 from the 3-point line, 2/2 on free throws).

Wawrinka defeats Djokovic in Roland Garros Final

2015 was a Record year for World Tennis Number 1 Novak Djokovic, whom was able to win 3 Grand Slam titles, 6 Master 1000 Tournaments, playing 15 consecutive finals (out of 16 tournaments played) and making All-Time record in Prize Money earnings.

He was only the third player in tennis history to reach, in a calendar year, all 4 Major Finals (after Rod Laver and Roger Federer), but the surprising loss to Stan Wawrinka in Roland Garros Final prevented him from a Year (and Career) Grand Slam. For now.

Flavia Pennetta wins US Open and announces her retirement from Tennis

Roberta Vinci’s exploit against Serena Williams was only one half of the fantastic cake baked by Italian Tennis Player in 2015 US Open: the american Slam saw a first-ever all-Italian Major Final in Pro-Tennis history between Vinci and Flavia Pennetta, two longlife friends both coming from Puglia.

Pennetta later prevailed over her fellow national, conquering her first Grand Slam title (on her first Final), and after that she shocked Tennis World by announcing her retirement, in ‘Sampras style’.

Jamie Vardy, Leicester making Premier League History

After 16 games into the 2014-15 Premier League Season, Leicester Football Club was at the bottom of England’s main Football League, with only 2 wins and 10 overall points.

Today, with 16 games into the current season, the Foxes are on top of England’s Football, with 10 won games and 35 points.

One of the reasons for such a turnaround is Jamie Vardy, a striker whom was playing semi-professional league Football only in 2012, able to make a new Premier League Record scoring in 11 consecutive matches.

Chelsea’s Downfall in just 7 months.

Chelsea Football Club began 2015 in fashion, winning their 5th League Cup and, later in May, their 4th Premier League title in 10 years (5th in team history). José Mourinho’s return to Blues’ bench paid off.

What no one could have ever imagined is that, as of today, Chelsea is living an authentic nightmare and one of the most unthinkable and quick downfalls in Football History, being only one point over Relegation zone after their loss to Leicester, a one resulted in the end of Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge.

Dinamo Sassari Historical Italian Treble

2009/10 was a season of ‘firsts’ for Italian Sport. For example, FC Internazionale became the first Italian Football Team Ever to accomplish the ‘Treble’. It was also the season, in Basketball, of the First Ever Promotion to ‘Serie A1’ for Dinamo Sassari.

5 years later, Sassari made Italian Basketball History by accomplishing a National Treble, winning ‘Supercoppa’, ‘Coppa Italia’ and ‘Scudetto’ after an amazing and unthinkable ride.

Wisconsin Stuns Kentucky’s Perfect Season Dreams

I started the piece with an amazing upset in 2015, I end it with another one.

The Kentucky Wildcats entered the NCAA Basketball 2015 Final Four with a 38-0 record, looking to becoming the first College Team in almost 40 years to accomplish the ‘Perfect Season’ and doing that with the best overall record.

Between Calipari’s Team and the Championship Game there were the Wisconsin Badgers, led by National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky.

The Badgers took down the previously unbeaten Wildcats on the grand stage of the Final Four. And they did it in fashion.

It’s a kind of Mago

I want to begin this piece with an assumption: I’m an Andrea Bargnani fan.

Since his Treviso days he’s always been one of my favorite players.

It is for this reason that I’ve never tolerated people’s habit to over-hyped him through all this years.

2015/16 marks ‘il Mago’ tenth NBA season, and I need to ask myself whether believing in Andrea Bargnani today is like believing in Santa Claus.

Chris Bosh, often used as Bargnani’s Main Scapegoat

On June 28, 2006, Andrea Bargnani made history, turning into the first European Player (and second International, after Yao Ming) to be selected as the first overall pick in a NBA Draft.

After having had only the 8.8% of chances to obtain the first pick, the Toronto Raptors decided to bet on who, at the time, was considered an “Italian Dirk Nowitzki”, dreaming to create a unique tandem with their franchise player, Chris Bosh.

It is quite safe to assume that Bargnani’s ‘rookie contract’ seasons are probably his best one in the NBA so far, and they will likely continuing to be.

At those time, after a very good fourth season (17.2 ppg with career high 6.2 rpg and 47% FG), lots of people were rumoring whether Bargnani would have performed better as a ‘Franchise Player’ instead of being a ‘2nd option’.

But has Bargnani really been a better player, for the Toronto Raptors, without the ‘bulky’ presence of Chris Bosh?

Between the 433 NBA games played by Andrea Bargnani with the only canadian team in the National Basketball Association, 170 of those have been without Chris Bosh on the court, less than the 40%.

In those games some main stats are slightly better, like points per game (13.8 to 17.4), personal fouls (2.9 to 2.1) and free throws (81.9% to 83.1%, shooting 1.5 more free throws per game without Bosh on the court).

What should worry the ‘Bargnani is better without Bosh’ representatives are his shooting percentage (44.8% with Bosh, 42.4 without him), particularly his 3-point range shooting (38.9% to 31.4% with almost the same number of attempts, 3.8 vs 3.6), and some of his ‘advanced stats’: if Bargnani’s overall defensive rating is almost the same with or without Bosh (111.3 vs. 112.2), his offensive rating shows a significant drop when he is not playing with the former Georgia Tech alumn (104 vs. 99.9).

Raptors’ Bargnani, surely the best one seen in the NBA so far, was definitely a better player alongside someone like Bosh, able to use his offensive assets in the best possible way for the team, and capable to hide partially some of his gaps, like his allergy to rebounds (in the four season with Bosh, Bargnani had a TRB% of 9.8; without him, a 8.7).

After 7 years in Canada and with 2 years remaining on his first long contract, il Mago was finally traded to the New York Knicks, in exchange for Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson and, above all, three draft picks, one of which being the Knicks 2016 1st round unprotected pick, particularly valuable if New York would not qualify for the next Playoffs.

Bargnani arrived to the Knicks after having played only a combined 66 games in the previous two season and he was one of the last operations made by GM Glen Grunwald before being fired by Knicks’ owner James Dolan.

Andrea’s start in New York was slow (8.8 ppg in his first 4 games as a Knicks’ player), but his Knicks’ career high (25 points vs Charlotte) meant the start of a 13 game streak with at least 10 points scored, averaging 17.4 points and 6.3 rebounds during that stretch.

This effort was a losing one: Knicks started the season with a 3-13 record, improving only to 15-27 on game 42, the last one played by Bargnani in his first season as a Knicks.

Knicks’ record that season without Bargnani was a decent 22-18, but they were unable to clinch the last playoff spot, falling behind the Atlanta Hawks for only one game.

Bargnani’s 42nd (and last for his first season) game as a Knicks was a 20-point losing effort at MSG against the Philadelphia 76ers, and the end was as incredible as anyone could possibly have ever imagined.

2013-14 represented Bargnani’s tied career high for Total Rebound percentage with a miser 10.4.

To put that in context, that season the following players had a better TRB%.

Kawhi Leonard (12.1%)

Lance Stephenson (11.4%)

Luigi Datome (10.6%)

And many (many) others.

In fact, Bargnani was the last player listed as Center for TRB% with at least 30 games played.

And we’re talking about his career high TRB%.

After his three ‘Franchise Player’ season in Toronto, lots of AB fan welcomed the opportunity to play with a star like Carmelo Anthony, capable of relieving Bargnani from main offensive duties, and an NBA Champion center in Tyson Chandler, possibly able to mask Bargnani’s rebounding deficits.

Well, with both Bargnani and Anthony on the court that season the Knicks shot the basketball many more times than their opponents (7.1 more FGA) but also worse (-3.8% in eFG).

With both Bargnani and Chandler on the court that season, New York had a 3.5 worst TRB% than their opponents, being outscored at the same time by 18.3 points.

Brandon Bass, Andrea Bargnani
There were few moment to celebrate for Bargnani in his Knicks time

Second Knicks season for Bargnani started on New Years Eve, with a 9 point game in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and it went on a worse way than the first one.

Despite a slight improvement in shooting percentages, last season for Bargnani meant the continuation of an unstoppable decline, which now seems to represent the largest part of his NBA career.

His decline is also acknowledged by the rest of the NBA.

On his first season in New York he averaged an eFG% of 46.8% on open shots (closest defender between 4 and 6 feet) and a 53.9% on wide open shots (more than 6 feet).

Both type of shots represented, respectively, the 28% and the 29% of Bargnani’s total FG.

The following year (last season), Bargnani had a 45.8% eFG on open shots (29.4%) and a 51.9% (22.2%) on wide open shots.

After looking at his good performances on EuroBasket 2015, I was really looking for Bargnani’s 10th NBA season, the first one with the Brooklyn Nets, in a role in some ways easier and devoid of most expectations that have accompanied him for his first nine NBA seasons.

This season, the first with the Brooklyn Nets, Bargnani is averaging a slightly better 48.5% eFG% on open shots (which counts as a 33% of his total attempts), but an horrible 42.2% on wide open shots (31% of his FG).

Putting that in context, if Stephen Curry is incomparable with an unreal 74.4% eFG%, even someone like Spencer Hawes, who’s playing an awful NBA season for the Charlotte Hornets, has a better eFG% on wide open shots (48.1%) than Bargnani’s percentage.

What is more shocking is looking how this ‘open shots’ counts in his overall FG attempts: they are constantly the majority of Bargnani’s attempts, shots left open by the defenses, whom bet (and win) on his inability to convert them at a decent percentage.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets

Andrea Bargnani has always been appreciated for his offensive skills.

His rebounding (he’s averaging 6.5 rebounds per 100 possession, a career-low) and defensive (between players with a career def rtg higher than 110, he’s second in NBA history for personal foul per game with 2.5) gaps have always been a problem, but in his best days he was able to hide them with his unique offensive skills.

How to deal with the fact that even his offensive skills are deteriorating and he’s on his way to join the shameful elite of NBA worst players?

His contract with the Nets has a player option for the next year at the veterans minimum, and it’s still unclear if Bargnani will exercise that option and prolong his NBA career.

But, at this point, would it still make sense to prolong this agony?

5 (+1) reasons why I will miss Kobe Bryant

With a wonderful letter on The Players’ Tribune, NBA Legend Kobe Bryant has announced that he will retire from Basketball at the end of this season.

He has surely been a unique player in Basketball History, capable of generating a variety of strong feelings, both positive and negative. It’s hard to recall an athlete of such level able to cause both extreme loyalty or ferocious hater-ism.

His style and his legacy has influenced today’s generation of NBA Stars through their maturation as players and as adults.

Kobe has been able to win in extreme fashion but also to ‘lose loud’.

We are going to miss him, mostly because our passion for the NBA has grown up alongside his career.

I’ve admired Kobe Bryant’s career although he hasn’t been one of my favorite players.

Here are five (+1) reasons why I will miss him.

1. His Finals Appearances

Having played the NBA Finals for 7 times (winning 5 of them), Kobe currently leads the league in this stat between active players.

From the Three-Peat to start the decade with Shaq to the Back-to-Back titles with Pau Gasol as his sidekick, but also going through the heartbreaking losses against the Pistons in 2004 and the Celtics in 2008, each one of Bryant’s career Finals Series is special in its own way.

His Finals Career Stats may not be the greatest possible (roughly 24.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.0 apg, 40.8% FG), but he was surely able to leave his indelible footprint in each one of this series.

2. The 2005/06 Season

In my humble opinion Bryant’s peak isn’t represented neither by his ‘sidekick three-peat’ or his ‘MVP back-to-back’, but by the 2005/06 NBA Season, one of the single greatest in NBA history.

It’s not only about his impressive scoring display that season (his career best 35.4 PPG that year is second only, in the last 40 NBA seasons, to Michael Jordan’s 86/87 season), but his ability to bring a less talented roster (Kobe’s main teammates were Lamar Odom and Smush Parker) one shot away from the Western Conference Semifinals.

His win share of 15.3, another career high, gives an idea of Kobe’s impact in 2005-06 Lakers.

It is also worth it to review some of that season amazing performances, first of all the 62-in-3-quarters against the eventual NBA Finalist that year Dallas Mavericks.

Before I mentioned the fact that those Lakers were one-shot-away from the Conference Semifinals. Kobe’s series against that powerful Suns team was definitely something to remember. Between all the moments, the two Game 4 clutch shots are the best highlight.

Last but surely not least… The 81 point game against the Toronto Raptors. One of those cases where you leave the images speaking for themselves.

3. Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant is probably the most dedicated player of his generation.

His love for the game and his hunger to improve still are an example to young basketball players.

His career was undoubtedly marked by his rivalry with Michael Jordan, something that went on also after MJ retirement, in 2003.

“I like Kobe, we talk a lot, I hope he comes back healthy. I think he’s one of the great players of the game, that he’s done a lot for it, and that he has a true love for basketball. I absolutely have high regard for him. Even though he stole all my moves, I still love him like a brother” – Michael Jordan, August 2015.
His duel with His Airness is something worth it to be kept in a glass case and displayed in a museum.

Jordan’s last ASG, Atlanta 2003, might represent the most unforgettable moment of this long feud.

4. Love for the Game

To express that concept, I will go with a personal Kobe memory, from my first interview with Federico Buffa in 2013.

For English-native speakers, a good will of Kobe’s devotion for basketball is his ‘retirement poem’ on the Players’ Tribune.

5. Italian Kobe

Between Bryant’s fans, Italian ones deserve a distinction.

Kobe’s relationship with il Bel Paese goes through the years, to the time when his father Joe played for seven seasons the Italian Basketball League with Rieti, Reggio Calabria, Pistoia and Reggio Emilia.

It is in Italy where Kobe Bryant has learnt to play basketball, and his bond with my home country is something that goes beyond sport.

Bryant’s relationship with Italy is something quite known inside the NBA, as we can see it in one of his funniest moment in an All Star Game.

(+1): Yesterday’s Kobe vs. Today’s Bryant

After having broken the internet with his ‘retirement poem’, last night Kobe Bryant played his first game after the retirement announce.

The atmosphere in Staples Center was more special than the usual, mainly due to Kobe’s announcement.

With the game being battled in crunch time, there was room to experience some bits of Yesterday’s Kobe, despite the fact he’s playing what it could be expressed as the “worst season of all time

After this shot and a couple of free throws made by the Pacers, the stage was set for a possible Kobe Bryant Instant Classic.

But history does not always repeat itself.

Last NBA season won’t surely be Bryant’s best one.

But one thing is absolutely sure.

On April 13th, after a season-long farewell tour, the eyes of all basketball world will be pointed to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Kobe Bean Bryant will play the last (probable) game of his distinguished career.

And, in spite of these tough last seasons, it will be a moment to remember.


Trust the Process

Last Friday, for the umpteenth night, the Philadelphia 76ers made NBA History.

On the wrong side.

The heartbreaking loss to the Houston Rockets represented Sixers’ 27th consecutive loss, if we count also 2014/15 last 10 games. A NBA record.

Philadelphia has beaten… itself: previous losing NBA record was detained by both Sixers (2013/14) and Cleveland Cavaliers (2010/11, the life-after-LeBron season).

2013/14 was also the first season with Sam Hinkie, actual Sixers President and GM, fully in charge.

It seems unlikely that Hinkie’s role in an eventual movie would be played by a Brad Pitt

Since taking control of the franchise in the summer of 2013, Hinkie has completely gutted the roster, cleared the cap, poised the team for financial flexibility and stockpiled picks, while trading away a (one-time) All-Star in Jrue Holiday, a reigning Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams, and numerous role players with clunky contracts like Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young.

Hinkie was appointed by the Sixers after the disastrous management of the Andrew Bynum situation by previous GM Tony DiLeo, a sort of Franchise Factotum in the last 20 years.

The only type of image available of Andrew Bynum as a Sixers player.

Bynum has never played a single NBA minute in Sixers uniform, and his trade (part of the Dwight Howard to Lakers move) meant also losing a more-than-decent center in Nikola Vucevic and franchise-leader Andre Iguodala, the recent NBA Finals MVP.

It’s interesting to recall how this, in hindsight, horrible trade, was perceived at the time.

This is a win for the Sixers on almost all accounts. To think they now have the best center in the Eastern Conference, while making sure that center doesn’t end up in the same division (Brooklyn) is huge. Bynum is not signed beyond this year, but the Sixers will have the upper hand in doing that, because they’ll be able to offer him one more year and more money than any other team. It’s important to note that it benefits Bynum to re-sign after the year when he can sign for five years, rather than extend during they year when he can only sign for three. Even if Bynum leaves, you get his salary cap room a year before you would have had it anyway, assuming Iguodala doesn’t opt out.

Bynum’s move for Sixers ownership represented the straw that broke the camel.

After that season, Hinkie came to revolutionize both Franchise and perspective.

At Year 3 of Hinkie’s Plan is it worth to ask ourselves: Is really the Process “trust-able”?

Season 1 of the ‘Philly Process’ begun in fashion, with an astonishing win against the defending NBA Champions Miami Heat, thanks to an unreal (and unrepeated) debut by Michael Carter-Williams, whom began his Rookie of the Year campaign by flirting with a Triple-Double.

Sixers began the season 3-0 and 5-4, also notching a 4 games winning streak during the season.

On January 29, 2014, Philadelphia’s record was a decent 15-31.

Win number 16 came exactly two month later, ending a 26 losing game streak.

Sixers later ended that season with a 19-63 record, second only to the Milwaukee Bucks for the worst NBA record of that season.

Philly’s high rhythm (first in the league for PACE) was joined by the worst NBA offense (last in Off Rtg and also second in FGA). Defense was also bad (26th for Off Rtg, 30th for Turnovers but 1st for Forced Turnover), and the upcoming NBA Draft was seen as an elixir.

A reaction for the ages

Sixers double top-10 picks were later converted into Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, two players whom, at this day, have never played a single minute with the Sixers.

Saric’s arrival to the NBA is expected for next season, while Embiid’s situation is dominated by a constant uncertainty about his injury status. He could play later this season or (probably) in the next one, but some rumors suggests a Greg Oden Scenario.

Philly’s good 2013-14 start wasn’t matched last year, with the Sixers starting 0-17, one game away from the worst start in NBA History as of today (2009/10, New Jersey Nets).

Despite that, Sixers ended the season with a 18-64, only one win behind their previous record.

2014-15 season wasn’t all garbage: Brown’s work was highlighted by substantial defensive improvements (13th for Def Rtg playing at a slower PACE -6th in the League- added by relevant improvement in terms of FG% allowed, both 2P and 3P).

Philadelphia’s real problem was represented by a poor offense system. Worst by far in terms of Off Rtg (95.5, with the 29th -Knicks- scoring a 99.9), also last for FG% and FT%: besides Furkan Aldemir no Sixers player averaged, through all the season, more than 50% in terms of shooting percentage.

Not your ordinary teenager

Here comes the current season, which should be the last “tanking” one for many reasons.

The addition of Jahlil Okafor, despite his off-court issues, represents the first real sparkling light in the Sixers process after Nerlens Noel’s defensive impact (at this moment Noel has a Def Rtg of 100.8, against a team one of 106.2). His post game doesn’t seem like a Rookie one, even more if you think that he’s defenses main target when someone face the Sixers.

The constant use of Advanced Stats in analyzing Sixers’ performances isn’t casual: it’s a dominant part of Hinkie’s process. It’s not so surprising that the Philadelphia 76ers are the top team, in professional sports, for their use of analytics.

It will be a tough rookie season for Okafor, despite his good stats: leading a team in which 58 different players (FIFTYEIGHT) were part of Philly’s roster since Sam Hinkie’s appointment.

Will 2015-16 be the last ‘Philadelphia SeventyTankers’ season?

The rewriting of the worst NBA Records could be an indication of that, but future is still bright for Philly, whom would probably detain 4 first round Draft picks next June, two of these being likely top-10.

Their extensive assets’ availability can represent a further advantage into cutting the ‘Process Steps’.

A team with Okafor, Noel, Saric, eventually Embiid, four good first round picks would only need a couple of veterans to be just in contention for a Playoff spot, even in an improved Eastern Conference.

Dario Saric
He’s coming

Are this Sixers the worst NBA Team Ever?

It could be surely arguable, but it’s also important to point out how, in none of the first two Hinkie’s seasons, the Sixers have never notched the worst NBA record.

Although this could be a ‘8-74’ year, NBA’s history is packed by even worse teams for records and ratings. Moreover, it’s the very concept of ‘worst’ worth to be discussed.

It’s worse a team like the Sixers or like the current Brooklyn Nets, whom might have a better record so far (3-12) but surely have a less-bright future, with heavy contracts and few draft picks?

If you ‘Trust the Process’, you should know the answer.

May the Porz?

Kristaps Porzingis first impact with the NBA surely wasn’t an unforgettable one.

With six games into the season, the Latvian rookie is on his way to turn many doubters into believers.

“I expect more of myself, so hopefully be better next time.”

Porzingis after his Pre-Season debut with the Knicks: 7 points (2/6 FG) in 21′ against Brazilian team Bauru.

His positive attitude towards game improvement can easily be seen in the Knicks first two weeks of Regular Season, although the W/L record isn’t exciting.

Porzingis NBA debut came against the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks, who played without their two most promising players (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker).

Kristaps’ firsts NBA minutes were a “bust alert”: a couple of soft moves under the boards followed by two missed long jumpers.

Despite that, there was room also for optimism: since the first play Porzingis always looked like someone involved in the game and not alienated by that, continually trying to help the team and make the best of his skills, for example by using his body defensively.

After his first NBA quarter the music changed: coming back in the court with the Knicks safely up by 11, Porzingis showed a little more of his offensive potential, looking quite comfortable playing as a modern PF, like a young Andrea Bargnani.

What differs from today’s Nets player is, most of all, the attitude: Knicks’ rookie is always (and I mean ALWAYS) giving it all on the court, spending all of his energy, perhaps too much of it: as of today, he’s first in the NBA for Personal Fouls with 25, tied by Sacramento Kings’ Greek big man Kosta Koufos.

The attitude on the court is crucial, for a young rookie (even more a European one), to gain the trust of his teammates and the respect of the opponents. Under the boards Porzingis is already someone to be taken care of: his ability to grab offensive rebounds (as of today second only to the dominant Andre Drummond of these first two weeks) could represent a huge asset in Knicks’ offense: so far the 2015-16 Knicks are third in the NBA for offensive rebound percentage and first for total ORB, shooting a 6.9% more shots than the last season without significant drops in FG%.

Porzingis’ first 10 NBA days were marked by a constant rely on his midrange jump shot, with a poor outcome (37.5%), and by a low 3PT% (21.1%), but there’s room for optimism too.

The most challenging of Knicks’ first 6 games for Porzingis was surely last Monday matchup against the San Antonio Spurs and their renovated front court. In my opinion, this was Kristaps best game so far, because he showed off his personality by maintaining his game level at high peaks.

For example, creating second chance points with his hustle under the boards.

Playing quick Pick-and-Rolls with a smart playmaker like Jose Calderon.

Facing a big-man like LaMarcus Aldridge with a perfect defensive position.

Providing defensive help on quick backcourt players in different ways with good results.

And last (but not least), athleticism and energy on offensive rebounds (with his putback slams becoming a nice cliché).

But what is impressing me about the Latvian rookie is his professional personality, not caring about stats but always focused towards team playing and winning.

“There’s little things that I didn’t do well to help us finish the game well,” Porzingis said. “I was expecting a better game from myself. I take a lot of responsibility for what happened.”

Porzingis after last night game against the Bucks, lose at home despite his second career double-double (14 points and 13 rebounds).

It’s too soon to tell if Kristaps Porzingis will become the 2020s Dirk Nowitzki as an amazing and rare combination of height, athleticism and skills, but the first signals are surely encouraging and on its way to disprove Phil Jackson’s summer comments.

Regarding Knicks Fans welcoming at an NBA Draft, it is interesting to notice a similarity with another Knicks European Lottery Pick, current Nuggets’ forward Danilo Gallinari.

And as it can be seen, revenge is a dish served cold.

May the Porz be a Force for the Knicks?